Guadeloupe Virtuoso’s Biopic Premiere Highlights Island Events

Guadeloupe Virtuoso’s Biopic Premiere Highlights Island Events

“Honoring Bolonge is honoring ourselves.” – Sandra Venite, Guadeloupe’s U.S. representative. (Photo by Brian Major)

Guadeloupe’s distinctive artistic and cultural heritage are at the center of the Caribbean island’s 2023 tourism season, which is highlighted by the April 21 release of “Chevalier,” a film biography of Black Guadeloupe virtuoso violinist and composer Joseph Bologne, known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Described by U.S. President John Adams as “the most accomplished man in Europe,” Bologne’s story features prominently in Guadeloupe tourism officials’ promotion of the destination as the “cultural capital of the Caribbean.”

This year, the island is hosting music and culinary festivals that spotlight the iconic Guadeloupe figure, who wrote sonatas, string quartets and symphonies that earned widespread critical and popular acclaim in Europe during the French Revolution.

Born in Guadeloupe as the son of a wealthy married planter and an enslaved Senegalese woman named Nanon, Bolonge was taken to France at age seven, and at age 13 was educated as king’s gendarme, studying music and fencing.

“Honoring Bolonge is honoring ourselves, and we are very proud to position Guadeloupe as the next cultural capital of the Caribbean,” said Sandra Venite, Guadeloupe’s U.S. representative. “[Bolonge] was Guadeloupe’s first hero, first champion and first virtuoso.”

Guadeloupe Virtuoso’s Biopic Premiere Highlights Island Events

Joseph Bologne, the Guadeloupe-born virtuoso known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is the subject of an film biography set to debut April 21. (Photo by Brian Major)

Headlining Guadeloupe’s 2023 celebrations is the fourth annual edition of the Saint-Georges International Music Festival, described by organizers as “the best and most prestigious classical music festival in the Caribbean.” The event will take place from April 10 to 15.

Promoted as a tribute to Bologne, the festival will feature chamber music and opera concerts featuring 50 world-class musicians from 20 countries, plus a series of educational and cultural events.

“[Bologne] was a role model of excellence and perseverance when times in France were torn between freedom for all and slavery,” said Venite. “Navigating in that environment really required a lot of strength and character and Bolonge was just that.”

The Bologne family continues to produce rhum in Guadeloupe, which will be available in the U.S. in the spring, Venite said.

Venite also spotlighted “very emblematic culinary events” scheduled for this year, including Guadeloupe’s Les Affaire des Cuisinière, which takes place annually during the first week of August.

“We have hundreds of women of all ages parading in Pointe-à-Pitre city,” during the event, Venite said. “There is food, music and dancing. It’s a very joyful day and it’s very impressive to see all of the colors and the love pouring out into the streets.”

Venite said Guadeloupe’s Carnival, which began with “Fat Tuesday” celebrations on February 21, is deeply rooted in the country’s African heritage.

“There is a deep connection with the creative energy of [Guadeloupe’s] enslaved ancestors,” she said. “There are no music trucks; it’s all drums and marching in the streets. We have about 100 groups associated with Carnival and each has a distinctive sound,” said Venite.

“You have the food and the beautiful costumes, and on top of that you get the culture,” she added. “It’s just a pleasure to walk through the city and enjoy Carnival in a different kind of way.”

Local Attractions

Venite likened Pointe-à-Pitre to New Orleans, as both share French Creole cultural and architectural influences.

“So if you like street art and would like to discover the city in a different way,” she said, “we recommend you take a taxi that will help you discover the island [and highlight] the street art we have all over the archipelago.”

Venite advised, “The presentation of street art is very militant, so you’re really going to learn what happened in Guadeloupe at different times through the street artwork.”

Enhanced Infrastructure

The Guadeloupe Islands Tourism Board has also worked to improve the arrivals experience for visitors, opening a tourist welcome station on the arrivals level at exit “A” in Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport, Venite said.

Welcome station personnel aid travelers with “itineraries and any tips they may need for their stay in Guadeloupe,” said Venite. The airport is also undergoing a renovation that will include the addition of new shops and a new restaurant and bar on the departure level later this year.

Venite said last year’s establishment of nonstop flights has been a game-changer for the destination.

“We’re really happy since November of 2022 to have JetBlue flying nonstop from JFK to Guadeloupe Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport,” she said. “Nonstop flights are very important in the Caribbean.”

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